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Public perceptions and understanding of mathematics and mathematics education

Room A202 and A203

What issues and challenges relate to the public’s understanding of the nature, significance, and role of mathematics in culture and society? How accurate are the general public’s perceptions of the nature and importance of mathematical literacy, knowledge and competence for professions, employment and knowledgeable citizenship? How do the public’s perceptions about mathematics relate to their understanding of what mathematics is important to study and how students can best learn the mathematics they need? What can the mathematics education community do to address these challenges? What factors should be considered in designing public outreach efforts in mathematics? In addition to addressing these questions, discussions of successful public outreach initiatives are welcome, in particular those that could work in a multicultural setting.


Organizing team composition

Aims and focus

Websites related to the public’s perceptions of mathematics

Other resources

Papers and discussion documents

Team chairs:

Cathy Seeley (USA)

Vagn Lundsgaard Hansen (Denmark)

Team members:

Mireille Chaleyat Maurel (France)

Klaus Hoeschmann (Canada)

Humberto Madrid (Mexico)

Aims and focus

Discussion Groups (DGs) are designed to gather congress participants who are interested in discussing, in a genuinely interactive way, certain challenging or controversial issues and dilemmas – of a substantial, non-rhetorical nature – pertaining to the theme of the DG. Discussion Groups are expressly not about the presentation of research papers and therefore there are no oral presentations in a DG. However, as starting points for discussions the Organising Team is calling for written contributions that bring forward issues, problems, and challenges addressing one or more of the questions listed in the introduction.

After having been accepted, these contributions will be posted on the web page of DG 10 and will be referred to during the discussions at ICME 11.

The organisers welcome submissions of contributions related to all of the questions and issues raised in the introduction to DG 10.

In particular, the organisers encourage submissions of reports about successful work on increasing the public’s perceptions about the needs for good mathematics teaching; the success parameter being that the work has resulted in improved conditions for mathematics teaching and maybe even has led to changes in the mathematics curriculum for a community, a district, a state, or, even a whole nation. As another highly difficult challenge, we encourage submissions of contributions about specific cases of successful public outreach initiatives.

Websites related to the public’s perceptions of mathematics

Experiencing Mathematics—An International Exhibition supported by UNESCO

Culture Math—Ressources pour les enseignants de mathématiques

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families

European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics, Mathematics Everywhere

Das Jahr der Mathematik. A German-language site in support of the Mathematical Year in Germany.

A list of additional resources on the public understanding of mathematics reported by the Math Forum

Math at Work. In construction, health care, aerospace, and manufacturing; brochures also available at no charge from Achieve, a policy organization focused on standards, accountability and support for American states raising their academic standards

“We all use math everyday.” A collection of high-quality mathematics activities to accompany episodes of the successful United States television

program “NUMB3RS,” a drama about a mathematician who helps his FBI brother to solve crimes.

Other resources

The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) has published two reports (including a position statement in the first) on the need for quantitative literacy among the broad population. These reports are available for download by chapter without restriction or fees at the MAA site in pdf format as follows:

Mathematics and Democracy (2001)

The 2003 sequel: Quantitative Literacy: Why Literacy Matters for Schools and Colleges

Dimensions: Une Promenade Mathématique

Dandelin Spheres—a case of three planes and a cone

The following two videos of old American movies show interesting (and incorrect) computational algorithms, demonstrating the kind of public entertainment that create confusion, while being accepted as everyday entertainment:

Ma and Pa Kettle with a different algorithm to solve a percent problem

Abbott and Costello with a different algorithm to solve a division problem

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Papers and discussion documents

Jozef Hvorecký and Lenni Haapasalo, Managerial Perspective to Mathematics Education Research [article] (141.00 KB)

Jozef Hvorecký and Lenni Haapasalo, Managerial Perspective to Mathematics Education Research [PowerPoint presentation] (2.00 MB)

Christiane Rousseau [PowerPoint presentation] (2.00 MB)

Websites related to the public’s perceptions of mathematics, and other resources (45.00 KB)

NCTM Past President’s Message: Johnny Lott: Students, Families, Communities, and Mathematics Teachers (53.00 KB)

NCTM President's Message: Cathy L. Seeley: Untapped Potential (28.00 KB)

NCTM President's Message: Cathy L. Seeley: A Flattening World (50.00 KB)